The MOOC Bandwagon

As others have noted – most recently Bon Stewart in her Inside Higher Ed article  – everyone seems to be jumping on the MOOC bandwagon at an alarming rate.

This week the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee, UK ) has jumped on it with a webinar entitled

What is a MOOC – JISC Webinar 11-07-12

Four speakers were invited. Here is the programme and here is the recording
12.00 Definitions of MOOCs (Martin Weller)
12.10 Tutor perspective (Jonathan Worth)
12.20 Learner perspective (Lou McGill)
12.30 MOOCs and online learning (David White)
12.40 Q&A

Martin Weller presented a useful overview of the history of MOOCs and some thoughtful ideas about the benefits of MOOCs and the associated concerns in relation to Higher Education.

Jonathan Worth told us about his ‘open’ photography course in which he uses Twitter with his students to reach a wider network of experts. I was not sure that this is a MOOC in my terms, although it was clearly an ‘open’ course. It got me thinking about whether using different technologies necessarily means that the course is distributed across different platforms, which according to Stephen Downes is a necessary condition for a MOOC (at least a connectivist MOOC).

Lou McGill is a staunch advocate of the DS106 MOOC, in which she has been a learner and she shared her experience of authentic learning in this MOOC. She is also working with Strathclyde University to research learner experiences in the Change11 MOOC.  I was a participant in Change 11 and was also interviewed by Lou McGill for the research – an interesting experience in which I realized that my understanding of ‘What is a MOOC?’ stems from CCK08, but many, many people who are discussing MOOCs today were not in that MOOC and appear to be coming from a different place.

Dave White pondered on why the Stanford MOOC attracted such large numbers and thought it must be to do with their credibility and brand name. He raised the question of the role of the teacher/facilitator in MOOCs and suggested that this is important if MOOCs are to be inclusive. This is a topic we have been discussing in our review the FSLT MOOC.

These are my reflections as a result of attending this webinar.

There are still plenty of people who have technical difficulties accessing a site like Blackboard Collaborate. We cannot make assumptions that people have the technical equipment or skills to engage in MOOCs.

Whilst MOOCs might be the new buzzword in Higher Education, there are still plenty of people who have never heard of them, only just heard of them, have no idea what they are, or who completely misunderstand what they are.

The original connectivist principles of MOOCs are getting lost in the plethora of offerings which now bear the name MOOC, e.g.

  • CCK08 (the original MOOC) was an experiment in getting people to think about learning differently;
  • the idea was that learners could be in control of their learning and meet in learning spaces of their own choice  according to the principle of distributed environments (see slide 33 in this presentation by Stephen Downes) and see his LMS vs PLE video
  • learners would experience learning in the massiveness of the network – so they would not be able to rely on the tutor/convener/facilitator – instead they would need to make connections and seek peer support. In the light of this our understanding of the relationship between teacher and learner would need to change
  • the purpose of learning in a MOOC would be to create knowledge and artefacts through exposure to a diverse network, rather than have it centrally provided. This would, through the aggregation, remixing, repurposing and feeding forward of resources shared and created, enrich the learning experience
  • MOOCs were never intended – despite the name – to be ‘courses’ ( see this blog post  and this response from Stephen Downes ); they were intended to be a challenge to the traditional notion of a course – in the form of learning events. If they don’t do this then they are ‘open courses’ (with some of the attributes of MOOCs), but not MOOCs in the terms of how they were originally conceived.

This is my understanding of what is meant by MOOC – now renamed (in the light of different interpretations) a connectivist MOOC. Many of the most recent courses which have been called MOOCs are not MOOCs in these terms, but fall somewhere along the continuum from connectivist MOOCs with these principles, to the Stanford AI type of centrally located MOOC (see Stephen Downes’ LMS vs PLE video for an explanation)

It is evident that there is room for all these different types of MOOCs or ‘open courses’.   But I hope we will not lose the principles of the CCK08 type of connectivist MOOC, as it is the connectivist MOOCs that are really pushing against the boundaries and challenging traditional ways of thinking about teaching and learning, which is of course why many people feel uncomfortable with them and why we are now seeing efforts to somehow tie them down and bring them into line.

Identity Online

This week has seen the last Networked Learning Conference Hotseat for this year – Managing your Online Learner Identity

Having followed the Hotseat discussions, the topic seems to have raised more questions than it has answered. It started with a discussion about what we mean by online learner identity, online identity, learner identity, or simply identity and is this different online to offline, and can we ever not be learning?  It seems that most of the Hotseats have started off by trying to pin down meanings for the terms being used by the Hotseat presenters.

Then came questions relating to whether we have one identity or multiple identities and whether working online fragments or disembodies our identities.

There was of course the discussion about how the internet might alter our identities by making them so publicly visible; we leave indelible traces on the internet. Do we have less control over how others perceive us online, or are we able to manipulate what others think of us?

Do we construct our online identities in association with others? What is the role of avatars in this?

Does the fact that we inhabit different online environments for different purposes mean that we have different identities?

Interestingly and coincidentally, questions about identity have also been raised this week by Alan Levine in a keynote video he gave for the Flat Classroom Project   His questions were:

  • Is there a clear demarcation between who you are online and elsewhere?
  • What parts of you are people missing out on if they do not interact with the online you?
  • Why (or why not) should you manage your own personal cyber infrastructure? What does this mean to you?
  • Who are we in this space where the online world is not something distinctly separate?

And then similarly – almost coincidentally I came across Lou McGill’s blog post about identity and through her Bon Stewarts blog post

There were a lot of references to literature posted in the Hotseat, which I have copied here below – but I was surprised that Etienne Wenger’s work on Learning, Meaning and Identity was not mentioned. A comment like ‘Any serious learning will take you through a dark night of your identity’, would seem to relate to this discussion.

I have signed up for the Academic Betreat  this year as an online participant and am hoping there will be more discussion about ‘identity’ during the week.

References and relevant links from the Hotseat

Koole, M. (2010). The web of identity: Selfhood and belonging in online learning networks. The 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (May 3-4). Aalbourg, Denmark.

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2012). A Model of Digital Identity Formation in Online Learning Networks. In S. Warburton & S. Hatzipanagos (Eds.), Digital identity and social media. London, UK: Information Science Reference, an imprint of IGI Global.

http://roys-discourse-typologies.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=identity,+capability+

http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/subjects/csap/eliss/3-3-williams

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20(1), 43-63.

Harré, R. (2010). Social sources of mental content and order. In L. Van Langenhove (Ed.), People and societies: Rom Harré and designing the social sciences (pp. 121-149). New York, NY: Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).

http://www.csisponline.net/2012/03/12/from-digital-methods-to-digital-ontologies-bruno-latour-and-richard-rogers-at-csisp/

Latour, B. (2007, April 6). Beware, your imagination leaves digital traces. Times Higher Literary Supplement. Retrieved February 27, 2012 Retrieved from http://www.bruno-latour.fr/node/245

Ricoeur, P. (1992). Oneself as another. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Rajagopal, K., Verjans, S., Van Bruggen, J., & Sloep, P. B. (2011). Stimulating reflection through engagement in social relationships. In W. Reinhardt, T. D. Ullmann, P. Scott, V. Pammer, O. Conlan, & A. J. Berlanga (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st European Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Learning Networks (ARNets11). In conjunction with the 6th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL 2011): Towards Ubiquitous Learning 2011 (pp. 80-89). September, 21, 2011, Palermo, Italy: CEUR Workshop Proceedings. Available at http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-790/

http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/college-ready-writing/bad-female-academic-being-myself-redux

Madge, C, Meek, J, Wellens, J & Hooley, T 2009, “Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: ‘It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work’.” Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 141–155.

Selwyn, N 2009, “Faceworking: exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook.” Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 157–174.

Perrotta 2009 The construction of a common identity through online discourse   http://opus.bath.ac.uk/20813/#.T2jkdgoAMKg.delicious

Van Doorn 2009 The ties that bind: the networked performance of gender, sexuality and friendship on MySpacehttp://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/content/long/12/4/583